When Ron Riddell graduated with a B.B.A. from Temple in 1968 computers were, he says, a “mystic temple in society.” But, armed with his degree, Riddell found himself in the computer field, and wound up, nearly 40 years later, with a successful career as a mainframe programmer. He’s currently a system support analyst and Assistant Vice President at Wells Fargo Bank.
Part of the achievement he attributes to luck, but “with out a degree at Temple I wouldn’t have gotten where I’m at…it opened doors to reasonable success.”
Now he’s helping other Temple students get their degrees, and have a chance at finding open doors, by funding the Ron and Ronda Riddell Endowed Scholarship with a $50,000 gift which is being matched by the Fox School for a total endowment of $100,000.
Munir Mandviwalla, Associate Professor and Chair, MIS, says the gift is “transformational because it will support hard working Temple students who choose business technology as a career. It is also the first such gift in the short history of the department.”
Riddell understands hard work and tight finance. He chose Temple because he could afford the tuition and live at home (commuting to class was common at the time). He got a further boost about two years into his studies. Temple became “state-related,” a designation that Pennsylvania gives universities that are independently run, but receive financial appropriations—in exchange for offering tuition discounts to students that are residents of Penn.
It was while he was at school that he met his future wife, Ronda Currens, although she didn’t attend Temple. The two met at church and she was only in Philly for a year before going home to Minneapolis. “ Four and a half years, and a lot of phone calls later,” the two married.
A job at Philco was Riddell’s first open door. After 18 months in production, he moved into programming. At the time, Philco was heavily involved in defense contracting, including work with NASA. His first computer was a Burroughs with 256 kilobytes. “I’ve got more memory sitting in my programmable alarm clock,” he points out.
The position at Philco lead to a stint at The Franklin Mint, then years of work at Combustion Engineering (a company who, at the time, was a leader in the development of both fossil and nuclear steam supply power systems.)
Then he took a job with Fidelity Bank and he’s now bee n in banking for 30 years.
“I didn’t build a better mousetrap. I got lucky getting a job in computers when demand was high.” Riddell says. He also invested, and lived a comfortable but modest life with Ronda (who succumbed to MS in 2009).
He wanted to do something that was large enough to make an impact, and the endowed fund does just that.
He also hopes that naming the scholarship after his wife, Ronda, will help people remember her. She was with him for 45 years.
Most importantly, though, “if it helps get a kid through college” then Riddell’s more than happy to have made sure doors continue to open.